Brittany

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Destination Information

Brittany offers the traveler a fascinating cultural history, plus enchanting old towns such as Dinan, Quimper and Vannes. The Celtic Breton language is still spoken, and on holidays, women still wear their traditional long dresses adorned with lace. Brittany is home to many megalithic monuments, the largest being near Carnac. Here you will also find long beaches, and the ocean in this area yields some of the finest seafood anywhere in the world. The Breton villages we liked best on our most recent trip were remote Commana, hilltop Moncontour and seaside Ploumanac’h. 

This region is the birthplace of thalassotherapy, the seawater-based spa therapy. Though the benefits of the treatment have been known for centuries, it wasn’t until 1964 when cyclist Louison Bobet, amazed by the speed and ease with which he recovered from a serious accident while being treated at a seawater medical institute in Roscoff, translated his cure into a series of treatments at the spa he opened in Quiberon. Modern thalassotherapy is frequently used to treat pain and mobility issues and to lose weight and to detox. There are a number of thalassotherapy centers in the region, and many have especially picturesque seaside locations.

May through July is the most pleasant time for a visit; August is too crowded, and some restaurants close for the season as early as the middle of September.

Editor Tips

Brittany’s Best Market

Brittany’s best market, Marché des Lices in Rennes, is one of the largest in France, with 300 stalls stacked with a variety of goods, including smoked fish, fresh butter and organic apple juice. It is held every Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Don’t miss the stands selling galette-saucisse, a favorite Breton snack of grilled sausage wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe.

Dinard

Originally a village of fishermen known as Saint-Enogat, Dinard, located on the Côte d’Émeraude of Brittany, was transformed in the middle of the 19th century by English aristocrats who built fanciful but luxurious villas on hillsides overlooking the sea. Follow in the footsteps of these grandees on the guided “Décollé et ses villas,” a walking tour of their villas created by the Dinard Tourism Office

Seawater-Based Spa Therapy

Brittany is the birthplace of thalassotherapy, the seawater-based spa therapy. Though the benefits of the treatment have been known for centuries (in 414 B.C., Euripides wrote that “the sea cures all human ailments”), it wasn’t until 1964 when cyclist Louison Bobet, amazed by the speed and ease with which he recovered from a serious accident while being treated at a seawater medical institute in Roscoff, translated his cure into a series of treatments at the spa he opened in Quiberon. 

Modern thalassotherapy, a series of seawater spa treatments with proven medical benefits, is frequently used to treat pain and mobility issues, and to lose weight and to detox. There are a number of thalassotherapy centers in the region, and many have especially picturesque seaside locations.

The Remote Beauty of Commana

Of all the beautiful Breton villages, Commana, a remote place in the wild empty moors of the region between Plomodiern and Roscoff, is especially enjoyable. The beautiful granite church of Saint-Derrien in the heart of the town is a masterpiece of Breton Renaissance art, with a magnificent altarpiece dedicated to Saint Anne. 

Near Saint-Brieuc, Moncontour, officially designated “one of the most beautiful villages in France,” is also worth the detour. The town, known as the birthplace of famed French economist Joachim Faiguet de Villeneuve, is a huddle of medieval stone houses built around a church perched on a steep hill with strategic views over the surrounding countryside.